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Highlighting JAPAN

July 2014

Summer in Japan

Cover July 2014

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Prime Minister Abe attends G7 Summit

Summer in Japan


The Many Ways to Enjoy Japan's Sizzling Summers

apan's summertime sometimes seems to be the least loved of all the seasons, as scorching temperatures combined with high humidity apparently make summer less than comfortable for many people. Even well into Japan's past, Japanese people regarded summer as a difficult time, says Isao Kumakura, president of the Shizuoka University of Art and Culture and an authority on Japanese cultural history. Kumakura described the various ways Japanese people discovered to spend a sizzling summer in relative comfort, including building design, food, events such as festivals and other distinctive activities.

Ephemeral Art, Etched in Memory
The Omagari Fireworks Festival in Akita

Fireworks - the ephemeral art of lluminating the nocturnal sky - have become a traditional ode to summer in Japan. As fireworks are set off in crackling booms and bursts of glittering light, one can feel the evening cool and forget the heat. July and August have become the time for fireworks, with festivals of great pyrotechnical prowess held in communities all over the country.

Onward! Toward a New Tohoku
Coming on Strong with the Tohoku Rokkon Festival

Each of the six prefectures in the Tohoku region - Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata and Fukushima - is well known for hosting its own vigorous, large-scale summer festival. Taking place in the prefectural capitals, they include the Nebuta Festival in Aomori, the Sansa Odori Festival in Morioka, the Tanabata Festival in Sendai, the Kanto Lantern Festival in Akita, the Hanagasa Festival in Yamagata, and the Waraji Festival in Fukushima. Now all six of these celebrations can be enjoyed in a single mega-event, the Tohoku Rokkon (Six-Soul) Festival, held this year for the fourth time and producing more merriment than ever.

Changing Wind to Sound
Edo Furin - Wind Bells from the Edo Era

Taito-ku, situated in the older part of Tokyo known as shitamachi, is famous as a tourist area thanks to Asakusa, Kaminarimon and Ueno Park. During the Edo Era, this area came to thrive as a center of commerce and culture. In Taito-ku lives a family that has since the Edo Era continued the hand fabrication of Edo furin - wind bells made of glass. Shinohara Maruyoshi Furin is one of only two Edo furin shops in Japan.

Making Comfortable, Ecological Living a No-Brainer
"Zero-Energy" Houses: The Next Generation of Energy-Saving Residences

Warmth in winter and comfort in summer have been vital topics for homebuilders in Japan since ancient times. Thanks to recent advances in techniques and construction methods, the effective use of insulation materials and of solar and other natural energy resources is becoming prevalent as the challenge of constructing eco-friendly housing that offers winter warmth and summer cool is being taken up all over the nation.

Cool Tips to Get Through the Hot Summer
Cool Biz

Summers in Japan are very hot and muggy and a good part of traditional culture was born from eluding the heat and humidity through everyday ingenuities. Along with yukata, uchiwa fans, furin (wind bells) and kakigori (shaved ice desserts), a recent addition to the typical sights of a Japanese summer is "Cool Biz," a campaign intended to tackle climate change by saving energy in the workplace.

Preventing Malaria with Mosquito Netting
Sumitomo Chemical's Olyset"! Net

Mosquito netting (kaya) was once so ubiquitous in Japanese households as to be considered a symbol of summer here. Mosquito nets were used to protect the inhabitants from mosquitos and other harmful insects, and in an age with no air conditioners those nets were essential for summer nights. While the younger generation in Japan may feel little affinity for them, mosquito nets developed in Japan are now saving lives in Africa.

Perfectly Clear
Nippura's Founder Shapes Our Views of the World's Aquariums

A lean company of fewer than ninety employees with its headquarters in southwestern Kagawa Prefecture, Nippura in many ways exemplifies Japan's tradition of combining advanced technology, design and careful craftsmanship to make products the world demands. Shikiyama himself is 81 years old and has the energy and dynamism of a man decades younger.


The tale of Urashima Taro

Outer space connection
The dream of building a space elevator

From race queen to queen of racing

FIA world endurance championship race driver: Keiko Ihara


Sado - an isle of gold, sake and natural wonders


Kitsuki city - Edo era ambience